Form consists of the physical properties of the work.
(1) : orderly method of arrangement (as in the presentation of ideas) : manner of coordinating elements (as of an artistic production or course of reasoning)
(2) : a particular kind or instance of such arrangement <the sonnet is a poetical form>
b : PATTERN, SCHEMA <arguments of the same logical form>(3) The literal shape and mass of an object or figure.
c : the structural element, plan, or design of a work of art -- visible and measurable unit defined by a contour : a bounded surface or volume
(4) More general, the materials used to make a work of art, the ways in which these materials are used utilized in terms of the formal elements (line, light, color, texture, size and composition.)
6-30. Augustus of Primaporta. Early 1st century CE
(perhaps a copy of a bronze statue of c.20 BCE.)
Marble, height 6'8" (2.03m).
Musei Vaticani, Braccio Nuovo, Rome
Form consists of the physical properties of the work. Whether we look at a sculpture's size, mass, color, and texture or a poem's order of elements and composition, all are part of the work's form. When you are doing a formal analysis, you describe the way that the work looks, feels, and is organized. The next passage is a formal analysis of a work of art; the Augustus of Primaporta is a statue from the first century BCE.
The statue stands six feet eight inches tall and is made of white marble. It depicts a male figure wearing armor and some drapery, with his right arm raised. The figure carries a bronze spear or staff in his left hand. The texture of the hair and skin mimic the texture of real hair and skin. Augustus stands in contrapposto, appearing to be stepping forward with most of his weight resting on his right hip. Attached to his right leg is a small dolphin with a winged baby on its back.
Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night,Saint-Rémy: June, 1889 Oil on canvas 73 x 92 cm.
|In Chapter 5 you studied one of the important elements
of form called line.
Some of the formal qualities of line are things like, a line can be thick, or thin, dark or light and line can express things.
Some line is is expressive and some types of lines are more analytical or rational. Line can be used to define the outlines or contour of a shape.
In Van Gogh's painting, he is using quite a vareity of line and in fact, Van Gogh uses line to define shapes, create space, and even express some kind of emotion.
One thing that Van Gogh seems to sacrifice or replace with his line quality if chiaroscuro. If you look at this painting, there is no clearly defined light source. Often what Van Gogh does to define the edges of a building is that he uses a thick dark outline.
In the sky and tree, he uses a series of counterbalancing or swirling lines to create some sense of movement. The lines seem to imply some sort of motion as if the sky and the cypress tree in the foreground are actually moving. This may have been an expression of some sort of energy or agitation on the part of the artist.
|This page of drawing on the left by Leonardo da Vinci,
is an example of a more analytical and descriptive use of lines.
Leonardo does not use any expressive or implied lines because he is describing
in as much detail the structures he is observing scientifically.
Leonardo's line quality is precise and controlled and that is what makes
In order to describe some of the curving shapes he is drawing, he does use hatch marks that curve around the form. These hatch marks give the forms a sense of volume.
The use of overlapping lines to create form and value is achieved by a technique called "hatching" or "cross hatching."
For example, a transition of light to dark can be achieved by layering lines.
Albrecht Durer uses similar hatch marks and contouring to describe forms but in his drawings you can see that he will some times overlap the hatch marks at right angles to each other in order to describe value structure or chiaroscuro. Durer also changes the directions of the lines to describe the form.
For example, the horizontal back wall, is described mainly with horizontal lines. In order to create the illusion of chiaroscuro, Durer increases the frequency of the lines and overlaps diagonal lines where he wants them to be even darker.
The frequency, darkness, and pattern of how crosshatching is applied can create the illusion of light, volume, and even imply the outline or contour of a form. The vertical and horizontal lines in the background of this image create a pattern that is interupted by the diagonal lines that are used to shade this sphere.
Another important part of a formal analysis deals with
key, also know as shading, value, or chiaroscuro.
By applying shading to objects they are transformed from
a two dimensional flat shape, to a thrre dimensional shape with volume.
|A simple shape like a circle is transphormed into a sphere
by the addition of shading or chiaroscuro. Artists who understand
and can name the components are often able to render these forms and forms
like it from their imaginations. Even when painting por drawing from
life, it is possible to use these "equations" to find or recognize when
these things happen in the real world. For example, if you look at
the painting by Carravaggio below, you should be able to see how the human
head and shoulders are really just a spheres.
When chiaroscuro is used in a high contrast like
the image on the left and supplimented by a spot light effect called tenebrism,
the effect is quite dramatic. Caravaggio is credited with being one
of the first artists to use this and his followers, Artimisia
Gentileschi, and Velasquez,
are sometimes called Caravaggisti, which literally means, a follower of
Michelangelo Meresi Caravaggio
oil on canvas 42"x31.75"
Wellington Museum London
Judith with the head of Holofernes c1625
oil on canvas 72.5 x 55.75"
Detroit Institute of the Arts
Film still from Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train
Even film makers today might be considered "caravaggisti" for their use of chiaroscuro and tenebrism.
This evolution and borrowing of forms, poses, and symbols from one period to another is described as schema and correction. The schema is the original plan and the correction is the updated version of the original. The theory that art develops in this manner was first proposed by an art historian named Ernst Gombrich.
These equations concerning light and shadow can be applied to almost any geometric form.
Color is also a major component of doing a formal analysis.
Girl with a Pearl Earring c. 1665
Oil on canvas, 46,5 x 40 cm Mauritshuis, The Hague
Boy Being Bitten by a Lizard c1600
|Form: Jan Vermeer is at first glance very much a caravaggisti.
His portrait demonstrates a good mastery of the human face as well as chiaroscuro
and tenebrism. Essentially there handling of value
structure is the same.
In Caravaggio's painting he paints the flesh tones of
the young man completely in browns and pinks. Vermeer's flesh tones
are much more colorful.
|If you look closely at the core shadow of the girl's
cheekbone and under her chin, you will see that Vermeer used some blue
and grays in the shadows and that he also shows a bit of yellowish green
on her jaw line which is the color of the light reflecting from her garment.
The use of colors that you wouldn't expect to find in things like flesh tones are referred to as non-local color.
Vermeer looked very carefully at flesh tones, the colors of drapery, and the colors of walls and shadows and recorded in paint how color changes in response to the light that moves across it.
Usually as things are closer to a light source they are yellower of "warmer" in tone and as they move away they become cooler.
In figure 3 all the other colors have been dropped out
of the band. It only consists of blue with no grays or any yellow
are red. Figure 3 demonstrates a lack of cool
to warm relationships. A similar relationship of warm green
to cool blue green also occurs on her blouse.
Navajo Sandpainting Textile
Contemporary Navajo Carpet 1990's
One of the more important elements concerning form is the idea of composition. Composition can include how things are laid out in two dimensional space or how the picture plane is organized.
For example, the top two images in this illustration are asymmetrical. The blue circles are not evenly distributed through out each rectangle.
The bottom two most images are symmetrical. There are balancing elements on each side of the blue sphere in the lower left hand image. Even though one of the objects is a square and the other a circle, they take up about the same amount of space and have the same visual weight.
The boxes on either side of the tall white rectangle are mirror images of each other and this can be referred to as symmetrical too. Since you could draw a vertical line down the center of the center rectangle and on each side of this imaginary line it would be a mirror image, this is called bilateral symmetry.
The "Whirling Logs" textile on the left is arranged in a bilaterally symmetrical fashion because we could draw cut the design in half and the left and right sides are nearly a mirror image of each other. Nevertheless, for all its symmetry, this textile appears kind of flat looking.
Composition also has to do with the creation of the illusion of space. When we look at pictures (as opposed to sculptures as the Augustus above) we often think of the picture as an imaginary window. The front of the window, or the glass, is the picture plane that we look through.
In order to create space artists conceive of the picture plane as having three planes that recede back. In order to create space in the picture plane and the appearance of a foreground, middleground and background we can overlap objects to give this illusion. If there is nothing overlapped then we can say that there is no real illusion of space in the picture.
These two pictures demonstrate this idea. If you look at the one on the left, there is very little overlapping in the picture plane and the figures seem to be pressed against this imaginary window. While the one on the right has some overlapping and we can tell that some figures are in front of others. This overlapping gives us a sense of space.
Navajo Sandpainting Textile
Contemporary Navajo Carpet 1990's
These two sculptural friezes
demonstrate these ideas in a three dimensional form. If you look
at the one on the left, there is very little overlapping in the picture
plane and the figures seem to be pressed against this imaginary window.
While the one on the right has some overlapping and we can tell that some
figures are in front of others. This overlapping gives us a sense
The "Panathanaic Frieze" from the Parthenon sculpted by Pheidias and his assistant, c.440 BCE, Athens, Greece, Classical Greek
Frieze from the Ara Pacis Augustae representing a prosession of Roman citizens, c139 BCE, Rome, Italy, Roman
Since there are echoing or mirror like parts that come before and after the episode, which is in the center, you could think of the structure of the narrative as being fairly symmetrical.
One of the concepts described in the above passage has
to do with how the contrapposto pose of the Augustus statue is derived
from an earlier period. This evolution and borrowing of poses, forms,
and symbols from one period to another is described as schema and
The schema is the original plan and the correction is the updated version
of the original. The theory that art develops in this manner was
first proposed by an art historian named Ernst Gombrich.
Some interesting ideas that might help you to understand
the terms "civilization" and "period" occur when studying the concept of
"schema and correction." Both of these works of art come from the
Ancient Greek civilization. Even though we use the term "ancient"
what we are saying is that the Greek civilization occurred a long time
ago. Within the Ancient Greek civilization, is tied to the region
of land we now call Greece. The civilization lasted between
(approximately) 1000 BCE to about 100 BCE but we divide the Greek civilization
into various periods that are defined by the style of art they produced.
For example, the Kouros from Attica, comes from a period we refer
to as the Archaic period, which lasted from around 600-480 BCE. The
style associated with this Archaic period is that the sculpture is a bit
unrealistic and slightly stylized in a geometric way. This means
that the style of the Archaic period was to make the sculptures look kind
of "blocky" and unrealistic. A later period that occurred during
the Ancient Greek civilization is the "Classic Period" which lasted from
circa 500 BCE -350 BCE. The main characteristics are that the sculptures
look lifelike or realistic. So both the "periods" belong to the Ancient
Greek Civilization. The main difference between period and civilization
is that period is a kind of style that is a subset of a civilization.
Civilizations go through many periods of development and a civilization
is located in one geographic region and spans a longer time.
bilateral symmetry n (1860): symmetry in which similar anatomical parts are arranged on opposite sides of a median axis so that only one plane can divide the individual into essentially identical halves
²frieze n [MF frise, perh. fr. ML phrygium, frisium embroidered cloth, fr. L phrygium, fr. neut. of Phrygius Phrygian, fr. Phrygia] (1563) 1: the part of an entablature between the architrave and the cornice--see entablature illustration 2: a sculptured or richly ornamented band (as on a building or piece of furniture) 3: a band, line, or series suggesting a frieze <a constant ~ of visitors wound its way around the ... ruins --Mollie Panter-Downes> -- frieze.like adj
sym.me.try n, pl -tries [L symmetria,
fr. Gk, fr. symmetros symmetrical, fr. syn- + metron measure--more at measure]
(1541) 1: balanced proportions; also: beauty of form arising from balanced
proportions 2: the property of being symmetrical; esp: correspondence in
size, shape, and relative position of parts on opposite sides of a dividing
line or median plane or about a center or axis--compare bilateral symmetry,
radial symmetry 3: a rigid motion of a geometric figure that determines
a one-to-one mapping onto itself 4: the property of remaining invariant
under certain changes (as of orientation in space, of the sign of the electric
charge, of parity, or of the direction of time flow)--used of physical
phenomena and of equations describing them
The terms "warm" and "cool" are used to express those hues that connote these respective qualities. In general, reds, oranges, and yellows "feel" warm, while blues, greens, and purples "feel" cool. Distinctions between warm and cool colors can be very appear either warmer or cooler depending upon the slight influence of red or blue. The same applies to gray and black (fig.12).
The wheel of color are helpful tool that show the basic organization and interrelationships of colors. It is also used as a tool for color selection. This color wheel provides basic color terminology that anyone working with type and color should be completely familiar with. Many color wheel models exist, and some are quite complex. Below are color wheel that contains 12 basic colors (fig.6). It is conceivable for a wheel to consist of an infinite number of variations, too subtle for the human eye to discern. Contained within the circle of color is a circle of black, which is obtained by mixing together all of the surrounding colors. Though this color wheel consist of only 12 colors, it is the root of all colors, a pure statement of chromatic harmony, and a fountain of imagination and emotion are important.
Hue is simply another name for color. The pure hues are identified by familiar names such as red, violet, green, purple, yellow. In the world of commercial products and pigments, hues have been given thousands of names. Woodland Green, Sienna, Apache Red etc. may evoke romantic and exotic thoughts, but these names, aside from their marketing value, have little to do with the composition of the colors they represent. In reality, few legitimate names exist for hues. The basic 12 color-wheel pictured on the opposite page features the primary hues red, yellow and blue; the secondary hues orange, green, and violet; and the six tertiary hues red-orange, orange-yellow, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet (fig.9). Primaries are considered absolute colors and cannot be created by mixing other colors together. However, mixing together the primaries color into various combinations creates an infinite number of colors.
me.men.to mo.ri n, pl memento
mori [L, remember that you must die] (1596): a reminder of mortality; esp:
me.men.to n, pl -tos or -toes [ME, fr. L, remember, imper. of meminisse to remember; akin to L ment-, mens mind--more at mind] (1580): something that serves to warn or remind; also: souvenir
prov.e.nance n [F, fr. provenir to come forth, originate, fr. L provenire, fr. pro- forth + venire to come--more at pro-, come] (1785) 1: origin, source 2: the history of ownership of a valued object or work of art or literature
It also called chroma or intensity, saturation refers
to the brightness of a hue. The highest saturation occurs in colors that
are pure and unmixed. Any color mixture will diminish intensity. However,
adding white, gray, black, or a complementary color most radically compromises
intensity (fig.10). Variations of a single hue dulled in intensity by different
amounts of an added complement are often referred to as tones. When complementary
colors are placed in close proximity, the intensity of each is increased.
This vibrant condition is referred to as simultaneous contrast (fig.11).
trompe l’oeil - (French: "deceive the eye"), in painting, the representation of an object with such verisimilitude as to deceive the viewer concerning the material reality of the object. This idea appealed to the ancient Greeks who were newly emancipated from the conventional stylizations of earlier art. Zeuxis, for example, reportedly painted such realistic grapes that birds tried to eat them. The technique was also popular with Roman muralists. Although trompe l’oeil never achieved the status of a major artistic aim, from the early Renaissance on, European painters occasionally fostered illusionism by painting false frames out of which the contents of a still life or portrait appeared to spill, or by creating window-like images suggesting actual openings in the wall or ceiling. (Brittanica)
Is the lightness or darkness of a color or shade. Chiaroscuro and tenebrism both employ the use quick shifts of light and dark.
Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. It is a variable that can substantially alter a color's appearance, and as we will see later, it is also an important factor in achieving legibility with type and color. A hue changes in value when either white or black are added to it. A color with added white is called a tint (fig.7) ; a color with added black is called a shade (fig.8). Generally speaking, pure hues that are normally light in value (yellow, orange, green) make the best tints, white pure hues that are normally dark in value (red, blue, violet) make the most desirable shades. The palettes colors below shoes a spectrum of tints and shades based on the hues from the colors clearly shows that changes in value greatly expand color possibilities.